Well, the Flyers have now officially dug themselves into another hole. They again will be given an opportunity to test the resolve for which they have become so famous. They threw an incredible punch at the Boston Bruins on Monday, but they still find themselves buried in their second-round playoff series, 0-2.
Despite a dominating performance by the James Van Riemsdyk -- the crowd was chanting “JVR...JVR...JVR” in the third period as the Flyers’ burgeoning young star made foray after foray at the Bruins’ goal and took a turn on three different lines -- the Bruins held on through the end of regulation and then won the game in overtime, 3-2. The winner was scored by David Krejci at 14:18 of overtime. It was a goal, a slap from between the circles, the beat Brian Boucher cleanly and immediately ricocheted out of the goal. The referees did not see it but, after the next stoppage, a video replay confirmed the obvious.
And now, again, the Flyers must dig.
They spun the Goaltending Wheel of Controversy again Monday night. This time, it came up “injury.”
For the fifth time in nine post-season games, the Flyers had to change goaltenders. The first three times, in the Buffalo series, it was because of gross incompetence. The fourth time, it was because the team was so bad in Game 1 against Buffalo. The fifth time, it was because Flyers starter Brian Boucher appeared to hurt his left hand with 8:59 remaining in the second period.
But in the end, it didn’t matter. Boucher was back for the start of the third period, and the game would last into the xxxxxth.
Back when, the first period began as if in a Flyers dream. After “U-S-A...U-S-A...U-S-A” and after “God Bless America,” the home team played as if shot out of a canon and scored after only 29 seconds, when Van Riemsdyk converted on a 2-on-1 pass from Claude Giroux.
Nine minutes later, it was Van Riemsdyk again, on a power play, getting the second rebound of an original shot by Kimmo Timonen. It was JVR’s seventh goal of the playoffs, and only begins to tell the story of just how good he has been. Several times on Monday night, he made the kinds of plays that joined speed and strength in a beastly combination. He has been an undisputed force.
But as the first period wore on, and as the emotion of the start wore off, the Bruins persevered and tied the game. The first Boston goal was a mess, a Chris Kelly shot on which Boucher had no chance, mostly because the Bruins’ Michael Ryder had been shoved into his lap by Flyers defenseman Andrej Meszaros. Then, at 14:15, the Bruins tied the game on the kind of goal that has forever kept Boucher a backup. He was excellent overall -- but this one, a 40-footer by Brad Marchand that beat him on the glove side, needed to be stopped.
In the second period, a pronounced dynamic began to play itself out. The Flyers were getting the better of the play on the rush, but the Bruins were absolutely dominating when it came to establishing a beachhead in the offensive zone. There were some loooong stretches where the Flyers couldn’t get the puck out of their zone, which can be a wearing proposition on everybody.
Still, the Flyers survived. Bobrovsky was excellent after he entered the game and it was 2-2 going to the third. At which point, Boucher came back. And, at which point, the Flyers played their best overall period of the young series. Their pressure was relentless at times. Van Riemsdyk, Danny Briere, Mike Richards and others all had multiple golden chances to give the Flyers the lead -- but it didn’t happen. Van Riemsdyk played a manly 9 minutes 33 seconds in the third as Flyers coach Peter Laviolette kept sending him out there with almost every line.
The overtime was a wild circus, again dominated by the Flyers. But Boston’s Rich Peverly did hit a post with about 9:05 left.
But in the end, it was Krejci and another hill to climb.